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HDFNL| Preliminary final: Jeparit-Rainbow looks to bounce back against Harrow-Balmoral

DO OR DIE: The spotlight in Horsham District league will be on Jeparit-Rainbow players, including key-position player Simon Clugston on Saturday. The Storm, which came off second-best against  a powerful Southern Mallee Giants outfit last week, now takes on Harrow-Balmoral in a preliminary final at Natimuk. Picture: WILLAMY IMAGES

DO OR DIE: The spotlight in Horsham District league will be on Jeparit-Rainbow players, including key-position player Simon Clugston on Saturday. The Storm, which came off second-best against a powerful Southern Mallee Giants outfit last week, now takes on Harrow-Balmoral in a preliminary final at Natimuk. Picture: WILLAMY IMAGES

By GRANT KUCHEL
Two weeks of Horsham District Football League finals have finished and the summary is that both of last year’s grand finalists are now out of contention.
Southern Mallee Giants have one hand on the premiership cup – for the second year in a row Jeparit-Rainbow played a shocker when it counted – while Harrow-Balmoral is coming hard and is now a serious contender.
All roads will lead to Natimuk on Sunday to see if Jeparit-Rainbow can atone for its debacle last week and whether Harrow-Balmoral can come from sixth spot after its kick-after-the-siren first final to make it through to the most important game of the year.
After an even first quarter at the weekend Harrow-Balmoral flexed its muscles in the second against Kalkee and built a match-winning lead that it maintained until the end.
Again the Roos’ big-game players came to the fore. Eric Guthrie, Callum Hobbs, Jandre Slabbert, Will Plush and Hamish Ellis led from the front and Jeparit-Rainbow will need to work out a game plan to curb their influence.
Like the first semi-final, the game between the Giants and Jeparit-Rainbow was even for a quarter, and most supporters believed it was going to be a ripping contest.
But from the start of the second quarter it became one-way traffic and a 92-point belting means the Storm has to regroup in a hurry if it wants to make it to the grand final.
The battle in the middle of the ground will go a long way to deciding a winner.
The Roos need to control the stoppages and win the centre clearances to halt quick delivery to Jeparit-Rainbow’s key forwards in Ashley Clugston and Peter Weir.
Making the task even harder for the Storm’s midfield is the loss of playmaker and prolific ball winner Luke Murphy, who incurred a hamstring injury during the second semi-final.
Jeparit-Rainbow will need a big lift from the likes of Chris Meyer, Sean Bayzand and Elliott Bath through the middle of the ground, and Brodie Grant, Nathan Cocks and Ben Marra to continue to give them plenty of drive.
The burning question is whether the Storm can cover the red-hot Eric Guthrie?
One of the best small players in the competition, he has been in scintillating finals form, while Callum Hobbs has hit form at the right time of the year and Will Plush has been a standout all season.
Talls a key
A lot will depend on both sides’ tall timber. Sam Cranna and James Mulligan occupied the best-player list for the Storm last week and will need to nullify Michael Phelan and Anthony Close if the Storm is going to march any further.
Phelan and Close both pushed forward at the weekend and hit the scoreboard, and together with tall Hugh Douglas, the Roos have plenty of firepower in the forward line.
At the other end Harrow-Balmoral will need to be extremely wary of Weir and Clugston.
Both had limited influence on the contest against the Giants and there will be little doubt the duo will bounce back hard this week.
If they fire the Roos’ defence might struggle to find suitable match ups.
Harrow-Balmoral appears to be peaking at the right time of the season.
The Roos have plenty of outside run and speed and will enjoy playing at Natimuk.
Jeparit-Rainbow will be a little shell-shocked after last week and will need all hands on deck if it is to arrest its poor finals record in the league.
Jeparit-Rainbow has prevailed on both occasions the teams have met this season, by 13 points in round four and 22 points in round 15. But this is the game that matters and it will be the Roos who will come from sixth to claim a spot in the grand final and again the Storm will be left to do some soul searching.

The entire August 31, 2016 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online.
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Posted on Aug 31 2016

Posted by on Aug 31 2016. Filed under FEATURED, Sport. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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